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Published: March 6th 2009
I had watched them pull in. The guy was trying his best to impress her and she was doing her best to stay aloof. I believed she was French but couldn't quite place him until he asked me Are you going to Sao Jorge? Do you want to travel with my friend?
The guy was from Brasilia, she, as I had guessed, was French. He was showing his friend around his home town but was leaving her to do Chapada do Veadeiros national park on her own...well, not quite. Being the only gringos in Alto Paraiso de Goias, we instantly hooked up and devised a plan to tackle this enigma. In fact, we were so deep in thought that we missed the bus when it finally arrived and ended up hitch-hiking to our destination. The middle-aged hippie couple that came to our rescue were kind enough to even negotiate our accomodation rate and left us in the best guesthouse I have stayed in on my entire trip. The bed was great, the food fantastic, the ice cream unbelievable...but what about the park?
Before setting out the next day, I go for my first of many daily ice creams while
Francoise II (Francoise I was my travel buddy in Brasilia) goes to buy some water. Coming back she has a sour look on her face. I had never seen her that way. She was always smiling, one of the if not the most easy going people I have ever met and the faces she could pull would make a dead man laugh...but this was worrying. What's wrong?
I asked. A would-be guide just told me the park is closed on Mondays. Today is a Monday.
I replied. Yeah, I read about it somewhere. Do you wanna just try and see how far we can get?
Stupid question. Of course she was up for it!
The park ranger, who was nonetheless on duty, duly turned us back from the entrance. Come back tomorrow!
Rebuffed but not discouraged, we started down a track we had discovered the previous evening. Past the symbol on the ground, where we believed a secret society performed its rituals and sacrifices, we came to numerous forks in the path. Without a guide and with no signposts around, we chose to photo document the paths we had taken. All of a sudden we came
across a hut with a tent and a hammock. A man who looked like he came from the stone age appeared from nowhere and in a thick, hick-like dialect requested 5 Reais from each of us. Scenes from Deliverance flashed through my mind. Francoise shuddered while I took notice of the sign to the side. Guided tours and passage: 5 Reais per person.
It was O.K. This guy was (semi) legit. The park entry fee we seemed to be foregoing was 3 Reais per person. An official guide which was mandatory, at least sixty Reais per group. The economics made sense. We paid up and followed him as he took the lead of our little group. Cave man up front, Francoise taking pictures and falling behind and me in the middle pretending to understand our guide as he talked.
After a twenty minute walk that seemed like eternity, we came upon a series of waterfalls that cascaded into a beautiful valley. The landscape was breathtaking and proving right the sign we had seen that said that this national park contained something like 27% of Brazil's biodiversity. Considering this country also contains the Amazon rain forest which isn't stingy
on flora and fauna, that's f***ing impressive.
Every few metres we would come upon a new plant we had never seen before. This place was incredible. The rainy season, keeping us safe from the strong, strong sun of the Brazilian central plateau but also wet from head to toe, was encouraging the flowers to bloom and put on a show for us. We were amazed and perpetually falling behind as Stoney led us down into the valley and up another cliff face to the table-top plateau.
There was something special about this place. The plants were different, the view was something else etc. but it wasn't that. No. In the distance we could hear the roar of water. And it wasn't the waterfalls we had climbed down alongside. This one had to be much bigger in size and volume. I remembered the words my taxi driver had spoken in Brasilia when I told him where I was going. One-hundred-and-twenty metres
that's what he had said. The most impressive waterfall in all of Brazil
(take away Foz do Iguacu, which is sort of hard to do, but O.K.) And there it was, all of a sudden, right in front
of us. Our cave man had brought us into the park along the back-routes and then as suddenly as he had appeared, he was gone. We had this spectacle to enjoy all by ourselves. The tales of pumas and jaguars were enticing, the flora enchanting but it was this incredible waterfall we watched from a distance that gave the trip meaning.
Cave man rocks!
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